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Franco Cavicchi-Emilian Bull


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One of the best Italian heavyweights of the 50's, if not the best, Franco Cavicchi won the European title as a pro, holding it between 1955 and 1956, before losing it in a brave effort against Ingemar Johansson, the best European heavyweight of that time. He stood 6 feet tall and was rather muscular for a boxer of that time, which earned him the epiteth "Emilian Bull", after the province of Emilia Romagna, where he hailed from. He also fought against Willie Pastrano, Joe Bygraves and Karl Mildenberger. Here is the story of Franco Cavicchi-Emilian Bull.


He was born 12 May 1928 in Pieve di Cento, a small town 25 km (16 miles) north of Bologna. He lived most of his life in Bologna, the city which also gave us Alberto Tomba. His birth name is Francesco. He had his first pro fight on 1 October 1952, winning by a KO2 against Mario Azzara. After going 4-0-2 in his first 6 fights, in the 7th he lost by a DQ4 against Hugo Salfeld, fighting away in Munich. This would remain his only loss for a while. He avenged the loss to Salfeld by a KO5 in November 1954. Just a month before that, he won the Italian heavy title by knocking out Uber Bacilieri in 10 rounds. Altogether, he put together a streak of 30 wins, mostly by knockout, before fighting for the European title against Heinz Neuhaus, at home in Bologna, 26 June 1955. He won on points after 15 rounds. He had a rematch against highly-rated Neuhaus, but this time in Dortmund, Germany, and again got disqualified after 9 rounds. His title was however not at stake. In his next fight, which was also a non-title one, he won by a DQ8 against Joe Bygraves, who would soon become the Commonwealth champion. He made his first defense in a third match against Neuhaus in Bologna and this time won by a KO11, 21 July 1956. Only 2 months later, on 30 September, he defended it for the second time against the Swedish sensation Ingemar "Ingo" Johansson, who was 14-0 at the time. Cavicchi weighed in at 205 to Johansson's 200 1/2, but Johansson had about an inch height advantage. It was a long and brutal fight, but in the end the Swede prevailed by a KO13. After scoring 3 wins against easier opposition, he was stopped due to a thumb injury in 6 rounds against the Spanish journeyman Jose Gonzalez. He was accused of faking, suspended and had his purse confiscated. He had to fight Gonzalez again shortly thereafter and surprisingly lost again, this time on points.


He came back by winning 8 straight fights, once again knocking out Uber Bacilieri, this time in 6 rounds, among others. He also knocked out the noted French contender Robert Duqesne in 3 rounds. He then faced Willie Pastrano, who was naturally more a light heavyweight, and came in weighing at 189 1/4 to Cavicchi's 202 3/4. Nevertheless, the more clever Pastrano managed to win by a 10-round decision. He would later win the world light heavy title. That was in June 1958 and in September Cavicchi faced the 19-0 national rival Giacomo Bozzano, who had won the bronze at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. Bozzano proved to be the fresher of the two and won by a KO8 in Bologna. Cavicchi now looked washed up, aged 30 and having lost 3 of his last important bouts. He however proved he was not finished by bouncing back again and winning 7 fights and drawing one (against Uli Ritter, whom he then beat on points later), before again losing in a shock upset against the mediocre Frenchman Francis Magnetto on points, in April 1960. He avenged the loss in the rematch only a month ago, also on points. He then fought Joe Bygraves again in June and won by a 10-round decision in Bologna. He then fought Karl Mildenberger, a German contender on the rise, in Bologna, on 7 December. After 10 completed rounds, the verdict went to the German. Cavicchi continued fighting until 1963, but he had spent his prime already some time before that, and would get stopped due to an injury against Bert Whithurst, lose by a DQ7 to Ulli Nitschke and draw against Rocco Mazola in an attempt to win back the Italian title. He did succee in the rematch, winning on points in March 1962. It was however clear that his best days were behind him, as he was winning all his important fights on points. After losing the title by another DQ to Santo Amonti, he was knocked out in 7 rounds (for only the third time he was cleanly knocked out) by Tommy Fields, who had a record of 13-9-3. That was 25 February 1963 and Emilian Bull realised it was time to retire. His record is 70 wins with 45 ko's, 14 losses and 4 draws. He was only knocked out once in his prime, by Johansson of course.


Cavicchi lived a long life, dying on 23 August 2018, at the age of 90, in his hometown Bologna. After Primo Carnera, he was one of the best Italian heavyweights, even though he never fought for a world title and his prime was rather short. Like Carnera, he was a strongman who could hit hard and at his best was able to beat many of European heavyweights of that time. He is also one of the few to last 13 rounds against Johansson and only the clever Joe Erskine has lasted as long.



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